The United States Constitution continues to serve superbly as the founding contract and paramount law of the land, but does less well when relied upon as a guide for foreign relations, says Catholic University law school Professor Robert Destro.
Invited to deliver The Catholic University of America’s annual Constitution Day Lecture on Sept. 18, the noted constitutional scholar responded with “Religion and American Foreign Policy: the Framers’ Vision and the Politics of Power at Home and Abroad,” offered in the university’s Pryzbyla Center.
Destro opened his presentation with a quick historical recap of the creation and scope of the original Constitution, a document that dealt explicitly with the proper place of religion in the brand new republic.
The firewall it erected between established faith and the governance of a democracy was radical for its time. Americans rightly continue to cherish the separation of church and state today, Destro noted.
But America’s system is atypical. In the majority of nations today, religion is the controlling force, a state of affairs that seems to leave American policymakers clueless at times.
“We’ve been blind to the fact that religion is the most dominant force in all cultures,” remarked Destro. A case in point: the drawn out humiliation in the Middle East that effectively destroyed the presidency of Jimmy Carter.
“How did we miss the Iranian Revolution in 1979? We forgot to talk to the religious leaders,” Destro observed. “If we aren’t willing to talk with religious leaders now, how are we going to act when they take power?”
Destro suggested that Americans reconcile themselves to the fact that religion exerts a “tribal” effect on populations around the globe, including domestically, and that the U.S. doesn’t have the luxury of refusing to recognize religiously-fueled regimes that behave in ways we disapprove of.
Under the provisions of an act passed by Congress in 2005, all schools receiving federal funding must hold an educational program on the U.S. Constitution each September. September 17th is the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.